Jesus and Abundant Life
A Bible Study of the Gospel of John
The First Sign – A Wedding and Water Turned to Wine – John 2
The apostle John records seven miracles in his gospel. The Greek term normally translated “miracles” in the New Testament is dunamis which refers to power or inherent ability. John is inspired and directed by the Spirit to use a different term to refer to Jesus miracles. John refers to supernatural works of Jesus as “signs.” (The KJV and RV translations of the Bible use the word “miracle” but a better translation of the term used by John is “sign.”) In fact the word “miracle” doesn’t occur in the Gospel of John, John’s 3 epistles or the Book of Revelation. John uses the word “sign” or “signs” instead. “Sign” (Greek σημεῖον – semeion - say-mi´-on) refers to an indication, a supernatural sign or mark, a signal. The Spirit moved John to emphasize that the supernatural miraculous works done by Jesus were and are meant to get our attention and wake us up to His otherworldly God-nature and mission. Therefore the word “sign” or “signs” occurs 17 times in the gospel of John (John 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30) and 7 times in Revelation (12:1, 3; 13:13, 14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20).
In John 2-11 the apostle John includes seven miraculous signs of Jesus that testify to Him as God. We know that Jesus did more than the seven signs recorded by John since John refers to signs in the plural early in the gospel when John has only noted the first sign of turning water into wine (e.g. John 2:23; 3:2). John has been inspired by the Spirit to be selective when regarding to the miraculous signs of Jesus. He is directed by the Spirit to keep signs in their proper place and priority. To John the miraculous signs of Jesus aren’t to titillate or entertain, they are to inform and mark with a purpose.
The seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in this section are:
1. Jesus turning water into wine – John 2
2. Jesus heals the nobleman’s son – John 4:46-54
3. Jesus heals the man with a 38 year old infirmity – John 5:5-15
4. Jesus feeds the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish – John 6:1-14
5. Jesus walks on the water of the Sea of Galilee – John 6:15-21
6. Jesus heals the man born blind – John 9
7. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead after he was three days in the grave – John 11
In John 2-11 there will be other important revelation about Jesus that are given separate from the signs of Jesus. But the miraculous signs are given to validate and accentuate what is revealed about Jesus. Each of these miraculous signs tell us something important about Jesus and that He is God; the Word made flesh. Let’s continue our study into this section of John’s gospel. Keep an eye out for the meaning of the signs John notes and what truthful revelation they are intended to communicate about Jesus.
A Word on Weddings and Marriage
It’s not an accident that the context for Jesus’ first miraculous sign was a wedding. Weddings and marriage are important to the LORD. God invented marriage (Gen. 2:24). Weddings begin marriage and weddings are a big part of society today. Statistics bear this out:
· 2.3 million couples are married every year in the United States; 6200 weddings per day.
· The average number of guests invited to a wedding is 178
· $72 billion per year is spent on weddings
· The average wedding budget is $20,000
· The average spent on wedding rings is $1,016
· $19 billion is spent per year on wedding registries
· $8 billion per year is spent on honeymoons
· Average honeymoon budget is $3,657
· Most wedding guests spend between $70-$100 on a gift
· 80% of weddings take place in churches or synagogues
· One third of those married each year have been married before
That last statistic leads us to ask about the state of marriage. Weddings and marriage are important to God. He invented this covenant relationship. That 80% of weddings take place in a house of worship is evidence that people still see the connection between God and weddings and marriages. People still value committing themselves to each other in the sight of God. But it should not be a surprise that whatever is important or valued by God will be attacked by the enemy Satan. Statistics bear this out; marriage is under fire:
· While some dispute the numbers it is generally accepted that 50% of marriages end in divorce – God “hates” divorce (Malachi 3:10-17).
· While there are 6200 weddings per day, there are 6,646 divorces per day; 46,523 per week. People are ending their marriages faster than they are starting them.
· The top five reasons for divorce are: poor communication; finances; abuse; no longer attracted to one another; and infidelity
· The more you are divorced, the more you are likely to be divorced: 41% of first marriages end in divorce; 60% of second marriages end in divorce; 73% of third marriages end in divorce
· The most expensive divorce to date is Mel Gibson’s divorce. He paid his ex-wife $425 million in their divorce settlement.
· The most divorces on record by one person is Zsa Zsa Gabor who was married 9 times. Her present marriage has lasted over 27 years.
· Lowest rates of divorce occur among jobs/careers related to: Ministry – approximately 6%; transit police – 5.26%; optometrists – 4.01%; agricultural engineers – 1.78%.
· Highest rates of divorce occur among jobs/careers related to: Dancers or choreographers – 43.05%; bartenders – 38.43%; massage therapists – 38.22%; gaming cage workers – 34.66%; and extruding machine operators – 32.74%
· Children from divorced families are 2 times as likely to drop out of high school
· Children of divorce frequently have lower academic achievement
· 25% of adolescents who experienced divorce become disengaged from families
· Statistics show children of divorce are more likely to have academic, behavioral and psychological problems
· 1/3 of divorces are caused by online affairs
· 54% of men do not believe online affairs are adultery
· 75% of men surveyed think it’s okay to visit adult websites
· 30% of cyber affairs escalate from e-mail to telephone calls to personal contacts
Wedding, marriage and family were created by God and are important to God. Marriage is the glue that holds society together. As marriage and family goes, so goes society. Whether or not your marriage is one of abundant life is greatly impacted by your relationship with God. For instance, those who attend church regularly are 35% less likely to divorce than those who do not or who don’t attend church at all. That means if 50% of marriages end in divorce for the general public, that the number for those who regularly attend church is about 17.5%. That’s a big difference, but still too high I’m sure for God.
We invest a lot of time and money on weddings and marriages. But the divorce rate demonstrates that marriages are faltering at an alarming rate and the cost in terms of family dysfunction, pain and finances is exorbitant. What is the solution? The better rate of healthy marriages among those who regularly attend church points us in the right direction. The more of God we have in our lives the healthier our marriages and families will be. The closer we come to Jesus the better our marriages and families will be. Having Jesus at the center of our marriages and families doesn’t mean we won’t have problems. It does mean we will be more likely to weather the storms of life. I encourage you from the start, invite Jesus to your wedding and keep Him at the center of your marriage and family. That is a strong message that comes through in John 2.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
People weren’t able to afford to regularly plan a few weeks’ personal vacation during the year in Jesus’ day. If they did that, they might not eat or some other pressing need would go undone that would have dire consequences. There were feast days and holy times of worshipping the Lord. But taking a weak off for a family vacation was not practical.
But there was one time in life when allowances were made to afford a week’s break from work – The wedding celebration. A Jewish wedding lasted one week. And while it was a time for the bride and groom to take off from work, it wasn’t like our modern day honeymoon. During this week family and friends would come and stay in the home of the bride and groom. As part of the wedding arrangement the groom would have built a house for his bride. This home was usually attached to his father’s house.
The Jewish wedding celebration was a honeymoon, family reunion, bachelor party, wedding shower and wedding all rolled into seven days of celebration. It was a glorious time in their life. In John 14 it is believed Jesus alludes to this wedding practice when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). These words, when coupled with the reference to the “marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7) present a beautiful illustration of Jesus and the church.
In Jesus’ day marriages were arranged by families. Two people would be betrothed to one another as children. This betrothal was binding. To get out of a betrothal required a divorce. When those betrothed to one another were ready to marry they would enter into the engagement. During this time the groom would go away and prepare the living quarters he and his bride would move into. The bride to be would wait patiently, alertly, not knowing the exact time her groom would finish his building and come to get her. It could be any time of the night or day!
Once he was ready the groom would come and take the bride. They would enter into marriage with a ceremony and a week’s wedding celebration. During this week, with all the family and friends assembled in their home to celebrate, the bride would be kept secluded in a separate room. Her and the groom would spend intimate time together. At the end of the week the groom and bride would emerge from the honeymoon room with their bed sheet as proof of the bride’s virginity and consummation of their marriage. They were then officially married and they would celebrate with a reception and gigantic culminating meal.
In the same way Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for His bride the church. When He is ready He will come unannounced and unexpectedly for His bride. He will rapture her to heaven where for a week of seven years there will be a wedding celebration. At the end of the seven years He and the bride the church will emerge, their marriage complete, and will return to earth for all to see and to reign. Will you be ready for your Groom when He returns for you? “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Rev. 19:9).
2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
The world is in the process of redefining marriage. While many have opted for the stance that morality cannot be legislated, others have pursued legislating immorality. Our nation and much of the world has legislated the immorality of same-sex marriage. Polygamy won’t be far behind. Age of consent is being legislated away to allow for and approve what would previously have been pedophilia. Marriage between humans and animals will no doubt one day be acceptable. With all this foolish worldly trending away from God one has to wonder if Jesus is even invited to weddings anymore.
If you are planning a wedding have you made plans to invite Jesus to your wedding? Think about that. You may respond “Of course!” but if you were really mindful of inviting Jesus to your wedding would anything you promote or allow at your wedding be a source of embarrassment in the presence of Jesus? If you really have invited Jesus to your wedding, will you honor your most honorable Guest?
The very first thing to keep in mind and heart when a wedding is being planned is to prayerfully send out invitations to Jesus and His disciples to attend. Every facet and part of a wedding should be planned with Jesus in mind. The ceremony, the reception, the music, the dancing, food and beverages, everything at the wedding should be to the glory of Jesus; to the glory of God. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Is this how you intend to plan your wedding? Are Jesus and His disciples invited to your wedding? A wedding isn’t really what a wedding is meant to be without the presence of Jesus in attendance.
Another important even more basic foundational point to be seen here is that, the setting for Jesus first miraculous sign was a wedding; Jesus gave approval and made His presence known with a wedding. Weddings are important! Jesus makes His presence known with weddings. A wedding and marriage illustrates an important aspect of Jesus’ personal relationship with His bride the church as well as with individuals who make up that church (e.g. Eph. 5:21-33).
Bible teacher and Pastor Jon Courson points this out well when he comments:
Jesus’ presence at this particular wedding signals His stamp of approval upon all aspects of the institution of marriage—civil, legal, and religious. A wedding ceremony itself has an effect that is not often understood. Couples find a commitment made to each other in a public ceremony harder to break when the going gets tough. Perhaps that is why statistics show that those who live together before marriage have a substantially higher divorce rate than those who don’t. I continue to be amazed at the large number of couples who say, “What does a piece of paper matter? Why can’t we just make a private commitment to God and to each other without all of the legal and religious procedures?” Here in John 2, at the very outset of His public ministry, Jesus honored and elevated the institution of marriage.
Jesus felt and feels weddings are important. He chose a wedding as the setting to introduce His ministry. Weddings should be holy events that we invite Jesus to attend. Marriage is holy and sacred and worth standing up for. Does your wedding and marriage announce the presence of Jesus?
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew exactly where to go when there was a need. That’s a good example to follow. That Mary saw this as a concern she needed to attend to may indicate she was a family relative in some way of those whose wedding they were attending. This would also imply perhaps that it was a family member of Jesus that was being married.
The presence of wine at the wedding should not be taken to endorse drunkenness or debauchery. Nowadays the wedding ceremony is brief and the reception long; people are married in the church and then indulge in wild reckless worldly partying that is anything but welcoming to Jesus (just listen to the lyrics of the music played at some wedding receptions). Wine was simply an acceptable beverage to consume at weddings. The wine had run out. They needed more.
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?
Jesus was not a disrespectful way for Jesus to respond to His mother. The word used by Jesus here to refer to Mary, “woman” (Greek gune) is a respectful but not personally warm word. There was a subtle rebuke conveyed here.
Why did Mary take this need to Jesus? The conception of Jesus was probably always a source of slander for her, Joseph, Jesus and their family. The idea that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit was probably rejected by those around them. To most Jesus was nothing more than a product of sinful “fornication” (John 8:41). Mary knew the truth. Joseph and Jesus knew the truth. But others rejected the truth. Maybe, just maybe, when Mary saw the wine run out at the wedding she saw an opportunity to have Jesus do something miraculous that would be a sign that would lend credibility to the miraculous conception of Jesus.
Jesus gentle rebuke of Mary, if her motive was as stated above, shows us it’s not acceptable to God to seek a miracle to validate one’s own position even if it is connected with God’s will and plan for us. Miracles are signs to point to Jesus, not us.
It should also be recognized here that Mary doesn’t appear to have any special influence with Jesus. Jesus gently rebukes Mary. This contradicts the idea that one has to go to Jesus through His mother Mary. One commentator states:
Those who believe they need to go through Mary to have their prayers heard or to gain influence in heaven have not studied carefully the relationship between Jesus and His mother. She didn’t carry a whole lot of weight with Him. Oh, He loved her and cared for her even when He was on the Cross. But He was neither influenced by her nor did He take orders from her.
[On another occasion] When it was told Him that His mother wanted to see Him, Jesus said, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? They who hear and heed the Word of God are My mother and My brothers” (see Luke 8:21). Later, in Acts 1, we see Mary with the other disciples praying in the Upper Room. She’s not leading the meeting. She’s not in a place of honor or prominence. She’s just one of them. There is one Mediator between God and man—not Mary, but “the Man, Christ Jesus” (see 1 Timothy 2:5) 
My hour has not yet come.”
John uses this phrase a number of times in his gospel (John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). Toward the end of the gospel when Jesus is praying to the Father He speaks of the hour coming for the Father to “glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1). God’s plan and timing are part of His sign to us. His particular fulfillment of His particular prophetic plan identifies Jesus as the Son of God (e.g. Gal. 4:4-5).
The “hour” of Jesus is the time of glorifying fulfillment of His redemptive mission:
1. To be the sacrificial Lamb; our substitute on the cross to pay our death-debt for sin (John 1:29)
2. To provide a death blow to sin and death by His atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection from the dead
3. To finish His mission and be able to say, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
Mary had patiently waited for her Son’s mission to begin (cf. Mat. 1-2; Luke 1-2). For thirty years Mary had waited for all the shameful insinuations to be refuted. But it was still “not yet.”
Our reputation, our defense and refutation of false accusations are not the most important aspect of God’s plan. They are important to us. But they are not always primary to God. To our self-centered requests to Jesus He responds, “What does your concern have to do with Me?” Many times we will simply have to entrust such things to Jesus and wait on Him. He will take care of it. But we can’t make such things our priority. Instead, we need to trust Him, keep current and alert to His beck and call and serve Him obediently when He directs.
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Good advice to be gleaned from Mary’s words here – “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Obedience and following the instructions of Jesus always lead to blessing. What is also very interesting and worth noting is that these are the last recorded words of Mary in the New Testament. The last thing Mary is recorded to have said is, “Obey my Son.” Good last words!
Later in John’s gospel Jesus will connect love with obedience (John 14:15 and 21). He says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. . . . He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” It’s not enough to pay lip service to our love of the Lord. It’s not enough to merely say we love Jesus. Our love needs to be validated in action. If we say we love Jesus, and disobey Him, we are liars (e.g. Mat. 7:21-24). Love and disobedience are opposed (1 John 3).
So if we say we love Jesus and for instance say we want Him to come to our wedding, and yet we are indulging in sex before marriage (i.e. fornication) then our “love” isn’t worth too much is it? If we say we love Jesus and want Him to be central in our marriage and yet are unfaithful and committing adultery our love isn’t worth too much. If we say we love Jesus and want Him to attend our same-sex wedding and bless our same-sex marriage even though His word calls such a relationship sinful, what does that really say about our “love”? The Bible defines such sexually related sins very clearly and calls believers out of it (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:9-11). If we say we love Jesus and disregard His word and don’t do, “Whatever He says,” then we are hypocrites, the truth is not in us, and we are living a lie. When we deny the sin that the Spirit points out to us, we are self-deceived and in reality call God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). That’s of the enemy. In the end and in every life situation the solution is really quite simple, yet profound, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Just do it! In the power of the Spirit, do it!
Notice too, Mary is not Jesus mediator here; she points people directly to Jesus. She doesn’t put herself in a place of mediation between Jesus and others. She observes or has become aware that the wine is running out and then points people to Jesus he Son. There is no scriptural basis for the elevation of Mary to co-redemptrix or to an immaculate position. She is honored among women to have served as the birth mother of Jesus. But she is still “the maidservant of the Lord!” (Luke 1:38). And Mary’s service is to point people to Jesus like any other child of God.
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.
Those used by Jesus to work this miraculous sign demonstrate three characteristics which those who want to be used by Jesus should also follow.
If you want to be used by Jesus to do great things obey Him don’t argue with Him. Jesus told the servants to fill the waterpots and they obediently filled the waterpots. They didn’t argue with Jesus. They didn’t ask, “Why do we have to fill the waterpots with water, aren’t we looking for more wine?” They simply trusted and obeyed Jesus command. We have to submit our will and even out understanding or lack thereof to Jesus. Then He will use us to work His work.
If you want to be used by Jesus to do great things obey Him to the full extent. “They filled them up to the brim.” They filled the waterpots as full as they could. They didn’t understand what Jesus would do, but they did as much as He asked them to do and to the fullest extent of what He asked them to do. We have to be wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus if He is going to use us.
In the Book of Acts Jesus speaks of an infilling of the Spirit, the baptism with the Holy Spirit that goes beyond mere filling to the brim. He speaks of an overflowing expereince with the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8 Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples. He said when this happened they would be empowered to serve and witness for Jesus. That word “upon” is a translation of the Greek preposition epi and refers to an overflowing, a flowing over of something. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is that superabundant overflowing relationship with the Spirit where we have more than enough of Him and He has all of us to use as He pleases. Does Jesus have all of you? Are you filled to the brim and overflowing with Jesus? If so, get ready to be greatly used by Him.
If you want to be used by Jesus to do great things you have to trust Jesus one step at a time. Jesus didn’t lay out a detailed plan or strategy for the servants. He simply told them step by step what to do: see those waterpots; fill those waterpots with water; draw out some of the liquid out and give it to the master of the feast. They simply obeyed each step of the way. The miracle of Jesus happened when they obeyed, obeyed fully and trusted Jesus; obediently do your best and entrust the rest to Jesus.
9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
The first miraculous sign of Jesus happened with no real fanfare though it became one of the best known miracles of Jesus. The wine provide to the master of the feast didn’t come with a tag that read “Miracle Wine.” Only Mary and the servants knew what Jesus had done. Jesus didn’t draw attention to what He had done. Jesus was discreet. He was humble and revealed Himself first to servants.
What we do for and in the name of Jesus doesn’t need artificial promotion. If the Spirit is in something, the Spirit will get the word out. We can announce ministry and invite people to it, but it is the Spirit who draws people to Jesus. If the Spirit is not in something all the advertising in the world isn’t going to work.
What is the significance of Jesus turning water into wine?
First, Jesus can be trusted; He will not take advantage of you. Normally the diluted or lesser wine would be brought out last because the guests would already have been drinking wine and likely have become inebriated dulling their senses so that they would not be able to know the difference. The usual practice would be to use the wine produced dulled senses as a deceptive advantage. The message here is that Jesus does nothing by way of deception; He does not take advantage of those who are vulnerable. Later Jesus will say Satan is the father of lies (John 8:43-44). From the beginning of John’s gospel we have been told that Jesus is light, grace and truth (John 1). Saving the best wine for last tells us Jesus is straightforward with us and He can be trusted.
Second, Jesus produces joy when He is made the center of attention. If you want joy in life (and at a wedding) make Jesus the center of attention. Usually the central focus of a wedding is the bride. Maybe the groom gets some attention, but the main attraction is the bride: her gown, her hair, her nails, her makeup, her choice of wedding intro music. But interestingly at this wedding the bride is not even mentioned! What does this tell us? It tells us that Jesus should be the center of attention at a wedding. It’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. In the next chapter John the Baptist will say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That is the key to joy. That is the key to abundant life. The further away from self and the closer to Jesus we come the greater will be our joy. If we want joy to flow at a wedding and in life, we need to go to Jesus and make Him the center of attention.
Wine is a type of joy; the fruit of the earth. Wine comes from grapes. But how is wine made from grapes? Wine is made from crushed grapes. The joy symbolized by wine necessitates crushing. Self must be crushed if we want God’s joy. The things of this world must be crushed and removed as obstacles, distractions and impediments to our walk with God if we are to experience the fullness of His joy and abundant life.
Wine is produced from crushed grapes that are waited on to ferment. There is a certain amount of waiting that precedes God’s joy. We don’t want to wait for God’s plan to develop. But if we act on impulse lunging ahead of God’s plan the wine of His joy will be bitter and spoil. We need to wait on the Lord for His joy to be made full (Psalm 16:11). Jesus has a plan, a plan that is abundant and full of joy; it is worth waiting for.
Third, Jesus produces the best. The wine Jesus produced from the water was the best wine. If we want what is best, we will go to Jesus. If we want what is best, we will seek what Jesus has for us. Jesus is the best and He makes the best. Jesus knows exactly what we need and He provides it for us.
Fourth, Jesus can turn the water of the word into the wine of redemption. Water is a symbol of the word of God (Eph. 5:26). Wine is used to symbolize a number of things in scripture:
1. Wine is used in sacrifice to symbolize God producing joy from the fruit of the ground – Exodus 29:40
2. Wine can be abused and become a dangerous as snake venom – Leviticus 10:1-11; Deuteronomy 32:33; Habakkuk 2:5
3. Wine is something leaders are advised to abstain from because it impairs thinking – Probers 31:4-5
4. Wine can be an object of dedication to God when abstained from – Numbers 6:3-4
5. Wine can be a symbol of joy – Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 25:6; 55:1; Joel 2:19.
6. Too much wine is not good; loving wine is not good – Proverbs 21:17
7. God’s love is better than wine – Song of Solomon 4:10
8. Wine can be a symbol of the confusion produced by sin – Psalm 60:3; 75:8; Jeremiah 51:7
9. Wine can be a symbol of lust and closely associated with it – Proverbs 9:2, 5; Revelation 18:3
10. Wine can be a symbol of God’s judgment and wrath on sin – Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:8; 16:19.
11. Wine is a symbol of Jesus redemptive atoning blood; He drank from the cup of the wine of God’s wrath so that we would not have to - Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:23, 24; Luke 22:20; John 6:53–56; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:27.
All of these things can be associated with the wine at the wedding but they all culminate in the blood of Jesus. Jesus takes the water of the word and turns us toward the wine of His redemptive blood. He is able to show us the righteous wrathful judgment of God on abominable sinful practices associated with wine. He is able to counsel us against sin facilitated with wine. Jesus shows us the alternative abundant life we can have in Him. We don’t need the wine of this world to produce His joy in us. He drinks the wine of the cup of God’s wrath on sin for us that we might be forgiven and cleansed from sin. He does this with His blood shed on the cross symbolized by the wine of the communion cup. When we drink the communion cup together in the presence of the Lord Jesus at the Lord’s Table, we are filled with His joy as we remember our redemption, forgiveness of sin and just death penalty for sin has been paid for us by Jesus. Those who believe in Him accept that and rejoice in the provision of Christ. That is the greatest aspect of the water turned to wine by Jesus.
Fifth, Jesus is an example of God saving the best for last. The chronology of this miraculous sign testifies that God saves the best until last; the New Covenant of Jesus and His grace and truth supersedes the Old Covenant of the Law. God always does exceedingly abundantly beyond what we ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). If you are waiting on God and hope seems to be running out, just trust Him, He saves the best for last.
A question arises from the account of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. That question is, “Does Jesus turning water into wine justify people drinking wine or other alcoholic drink; at least at weddings? Does it establish weddings as an acceptable time to get drunk?” In response to this question and those like it I share a comment from a fellow pastor-teacher:
Throughout history, there have been those who use this story as justification for drinking alcohol. “Jesus made wine. Jesus drank wine. So don’t talk to me about not drinking,” they insist.
“If your argument is sincerely based upon the example of Jesus, you will never drink again,” I answer. “Look at Luke 22:18 where Jesus says He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come. Even if Jesus was drinking fermented wine—a viewpoint to which I don’t personally subscribe—since He as your role model will not drink again until the kingdom comes, neither should you.”
As a pastor, I’m tired of seeing the damage alcohol inflicts upon our children, our families, and our society as a whole. Everyone who has ever begun to drink has done so thinking they would be careful, that they would remain in control. [“15% of the people living in the United States are considered ‘problem drinkers.’ . . . There are more than three million teenagers who are alcoholics. . . . There are an estimated 140 million alcoholics around the world.” . . . 1 in 25 deaths around the world can be attributed to alcohol. . . . Today’s stats show that nearly 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol related liver disease. . . . Research has shown that alcoholism plays a major role in aggression with as many as 40% of all aggressive incidents involving alcohol in one way or another. 22% of police’s time is spent on cases involving alcohol. . . . Drinking and driving is one of the most serious problems on our roads today. Recent data shows that nearly 40% of all traffic-related deaths are related to alcohol. . . . Drunk drivers are costing the United States approximately 50 billion dollars every year. Alcohol costs so many so much; their health, family, friends and their community.” ] . . . . Eighteen million Americans are known alcoholics proves otherwise. Solomon declares, “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that are of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Proverbs 31:4–7). If you’re perishing, which literally means “damned,” or if you’re depressed to the point where you cannot bear life, you have Solomon’s permission to partake of alcohol.
But if you want to be a leader, he warns you to stay away from it lest you short-circuit your thinking process. Solomon was right, for science has since proven that every ounce of alcohol consumed permanently destroys ten thousand dendrites, or filaments, in the nerve cells of the brain. While it is true that each of us has millions of dendrites, I think it is fair to say that none of us has any to spare. If you’re like me, you need all the dendrites you can get! Be wise, precious people, and consider very seriously the effects of alcohol upon your spiritual and physical well-being, your family stability, and the health of our society.
Really, we shouldn’t be looking for loopholes to indulge our flesh. I won’t go so far as to condemn those who do partake in alcoholic consumption as being in sin. Drunkenness is sin. But I would simply say instead of indulging in alcohol and risking drunkenness we should focus on and seek to be continually filled with the Spirit. That’s what Paul is inspired to tell us. He says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). When we get drunk our sense are impaired and confused, dissipated. Instead we should be seeking to have our senses intensified and empowered by the filling and refilling of the Holy Spirit. Be filled continually with the Spirit.
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
The purpose of Jesus’ miraculous signs was to manifest His glory. The word “manifest” (Greek phaneroo) means to manifest, reveal, show or disclose. Signs are not meant to titillate human curiosity. The miraculous signs of Jesus were meant to manifest an aspect of His glory. They were meant to draw attention to Jesus and tell us something about Him. And signs are also meant to draw people into a belief in Jesus. But as we will see, we shouldn’t become sign-seekers.
The first miracle of Moses the law giver was to turn the water of the Nile to blood; a sign of judgment. The first miracle of Jesus the grace-Giver was turning water into wine; a type of joy. If you approach the water of the word legalistically you’ll find judgment; harshness. But if you approach the water of the word with grace, you’ll find the joy of Jesus.
Jesus worked His first miraculous sign at a wedding in Cana. The marriage relationship is second only to our individual personal relationship with God in Christ. For our marriages to be fruitful and enduring we need the intervention of Jesus. We need Jesus to infuse washed up or watered down marriage with His joy. When a marriage is running low on what it needs, go to Jesus and do what He tells you to do.
We are like earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). And we need to fill our stone waterpots up to the brim with the water of Jesus’ word (e.g. Eph. 5:26). Then as we’re filled with the word, drink in and absorb what each of us as spouses need to do to bring sweetness to each other, as we serve each other in Christ, as we share in the water of the word of Jesus, He will put His joy in us as couples. Jesus can fill up the empty. He can use the vessels willing to be filled with His word.
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
Nothing said to Mary by Jesus caused any rift. Mary is still accompanying her Son Jesus.
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Connected with the Feast of Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Part of the practice of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was cleaning the house of all leaven which is a type of sin. The Feast speaks of holiness; purity.
14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.
Jesus now proceeds to His Father’s house and cleanses the temple of greediness. The Temple was a series of courtyards. At the outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles, and then came the court of the Israelites, then the Court of the Men, and then the Court of the Priests that was closest to the Temple itself.
15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.
What caused then and always causes even to this day Jesus to get angry? Jesus responded in righteous indignation and anger. He “made a whip of cords,” and “He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen.” This was no gentle act. Jesus “poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.”
Jesus had recently been to a wedding, a joyful time; holy joy. Now He was acting in holy anger. What was the difference that elicited such a contrasting response? A wedding is an event that brings two people together in the presence of God. A wedding is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church (Eph. 5:21-33). A wedding brings us close to God to publically commit to a holy loving lifelong relationship. Weddings are supposed to bring us closer to God. Weddings are invitations to celebrate in the presence of God. But Jesus encountered something quite different when He came to the Temple precincts.
The Temple was the physical place above all others for God’s people where they could come into His presence. The Temple was a national symbol of relationship with God. The Temple was where reconciliation through blood sacrifice by faith in God took place. The Temple was the place where people could feel closest to God. It was a place of holiness. It was a place of pilgrimage. It was where people came from all over the world to make things right with God. The Temple was a place of coming into the presence of God. But the priests and moneychangers had abused their position in order to profit off of God’s Temple. The priests and moneychangers cheapened what the Holy Temple was all about. They reduced the Temple and its sacrifices to a selfish instrument and opportunity to fleece God’s flock and they did this by using and abusing the holy desire of the people of God who wanted to make things right in their relationship with God. This is what angered Jesus so greatly and caused Him to act so forcibly. It angers Jesus whenever obstacles or impediments, for whatever reason, keep people from God who want to come to God.
16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away!
Jesus will always say, “Take these things away!” to whatever complicates or impedes people from coming to Him. In the gospels we see human traditions, legalism, power seeking, pride, jealousy, envy, greed and an assortment of fleshly ways get in the way of people coming to God. Jesus came in “grace and truth” to invite people to a saving relationship with God through faith in Him (John 1:17). Jesus came to remove the separation between God and humanity caused by sin (e.g. John 1:29; 8:31-36).
Jesus came to be “the door” that opens the way to God (John 10:7-9). He is the Shepherd Who guides people to God (John 10:11). He is the resurrection and the life that makes a way to God (John 11:25-26). Jesus is our example to follow to God (John 13:15). He is the way to God, the truth about God, and the abundant life found in God through faith in Him (John 14:6; 10:10). We need to say, “Take these things away!” to whatever impedes our way and the way of others to God.
Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
Pilgrims would come to Jerusalem to visit the Temple from all over the world. Priests took advantage of these pilgrims. First they would inspect the animals brought by pilgrims to be sacrificed at the Temple. Priests would assess the animals as blemished and therefore unsuitable for sacrifice. Pilgrims were then advised to purchase Temple approved sacrificial animals instead.
Another problem pilgrims would face is that when it came time to purchase preapproved sacrificial animals or to pay their temple taxes their secular money that had Caesar’s or other’s face imprinted on coins was deemed unholy and unacceptable to purchase holy animals for sacrifice or to pay their temple taxes. Therefore pilgrims had to go to moneychangers who would then convert secular currency to Temple shekels at an exorbitant exchange rate up to ten times the normal exchange rate.
Jesus saw all this corruption and cleaned house; literally. And He didn’t evict these extortionists gently. He may have come from a wedding, but He wasted no time kicking the corrupt out of His Father’s house. Jesus feels no differently today. It grieves and angers Him to those who are more interested in fleecing the flock of God than feeding the flock of God. To the fleecers of God’s flock He still says, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
Notice the contrast in these two events of John 2:
· At the wedding He sat at a table – At the cleansing of the temple Jesus is throwing tables.
· At the wedding He worked discreetly – At the cleansing of the temple he worked publically.
· At the wedding He produced joy – At the cleansing of the temple He judged.
There is no Temple standing today. But our body is referred to in scripture as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). If we want Jesus’ joy we need to allow Him to evict those things which threaten to fleece us of the fullness and fruitfulness of the Spirit. If we want Jesus joy we need to be wed to Him. We need to invite Jesus to go through our life and clean house of anything that He would find repulsive and sinful. And it is at the Lord’s Table that all of this can take place.
Communion at the Lord’s Table can be the perfect place where we invite Jesus to clean our house so that we cannot be distracted from or robbed of His joy.
17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
Jesus fulfilled Psalm 69:9 in the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus has a passion for His Father’s house. Do we have a similar passion for the house of our heavenly Father? Do we have a passion for our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Do we have a passion for our churches where the bride of Christ is called to gather together in His presence?
The church exists for three reasons:
The church exists for exaltation – to worship the Lord. Jesus deserves our worship (Rev. 4:11; Co. 1:16).
The church exists for edification – to build up and equip the saints so they can properly represent and serve the Lord (Eph. 4:12-13).
The church exists for evangelization – to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ; souls saved; disciples made; healthy sheep reproduce (Acts 6:7).
The early church birthed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit was a church devoted and passionately committed to the teaching of Gods’ word, fellowship, worship and prayer (Acts 2:42). If our church is to fulfill its Christ given commission (Matthew 28:18-20), then we must follow the Spirit empowered and revealed model provided in the book of Acts and rest of the New Testament.
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
No one asked Jesus “Why?” He cleansed the Temple of the greedy – they all knew the environment of greed was wrong; they all knew it needed to be done.
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Jesus knew and knows “what was in man.” He knows people like to be entertained. They aren’t changed by miraculous signs. The problem with basing faith on a sign is that signs are never enough. Faith needs to be based on Who Jesus is more than on what Jesus does. Faith is a product of hearing God’s word and coming to know Jesus (e.g. Rom. 10:17).
Jesus said it was an “evil generation” that seeks a sign from Him. The people were seeking a sign as mere entertainment. They wanted a show. But they weren’t interested in the reason behind the signs. They willfully ignored the purpose of the signs to show them who Jesus was and why He was here. The signs He performed didn’t impact them in a life changing way.
In Luke’s gospel account Jesus puts signs in their proper place. He states:
· Luke 11:29-32 - And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus explained that those seeking a sign were worse than the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capitol city of one of the worst and most wicked empires in history, the Assyrians. The Assyrians were a terrorist empire who would use shock and awe tactics to scare people into submission. They would conquer a city, execute all its men, and pile the heads of the executed in a pyramid at the city gate. It was a message that “This is what happens to anyone who opposes or resists us.” God is a God of grace and He desires to redeem even those with such evil intent and nature. So He sent Jonah to preach to them and call them to repentance. And when Jonah went to Nineveh they did repent; there was a great revival in that evil city. Jesus refers to this revival of repentance and says God’s own people were worse than the Ninevites. Why were they worse? Because when Jonah preached to the Ninevites they repented. The generation of Jesus time saw His miraculous signs but did not repent! (Luke 11:29-32).
How about you, are you a sign seeker? Do you go from one church to another, church hop, to see the latest “move of the Spirit”? Do you skim the surface of spirituality looking for a sign or do you seek Jesus and the substance of scripture? Are you seeking entertainment or scriptural edification? People might initially follow Jesus because of signs, but it won’t last. Enduring faith is the product of personal commitment and relationship with the Person of Jesus.
There is a further danger for sign seekers. In the latter times we are told that the Antichrist will come and use signs to delude. Scripture reveals:
· 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 - 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
So if you are a sign seeker beware, you could be setting yourself up for deception. Come to Jesus. Focus on Jesus and your walk with Him. Follow Him even if He doesn’t perform signs. Jesus can and does perform signs. But miraculous signs should never be the focus and end of our walk with God. Jesus should be the center, signs or no signs. Follow Jesus and let Him clean your temple of anything that might distract you from getting closer to Him.
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 447
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 449
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 450